The Localism Bill

A timetable recently published by the Government indicates that by November 2011 the Government’s Localism Bill will be passed.
Key points of the Bill
The bill is split across four main heading and some special provisions for London
community empowerment
decentralisation and strengthening local democracy
reform of the planning system
social housing reform.
Right to veto excessive council tax rises
Any council tax rises above a ceiling set by the secretary of state and approved by the House of Commons will trigger a referendum of all registered electors in their area.
Community Right to Challenge
A right for voluntary and community groups, social enterprises, parish councils and local authority employees delivering a service, to challenge a local authority, by expressing an interest in running any service for which they are responsible. A local authority must consider and respond to this challenge.
Community Right to Buy
This will require local authorities to maintain a list of public or private assets of community value put forward for consideration by communities. When listed assets come up for disposal communities have the chance to buy the asset when it comes on the open market.
Local referendums
This measure gives people, councillors and councils the power to instigate a local referendum on any local issue. Although these referendums will be non-binding.
General Power of Competence
The general power of competence will provide local authorities powers to do anything apart from that which is specifically prohibited.
Local authority governance
These measures will allow principal authorities to return to the committee system of governance, should they wish.
Directly elected mayors
Giving areas the right to have a mayor if they wish to following a referendum.
This will make councillors free to campaign, to express views on issues and to vote, without fear of being accused of having a closed mind on a particular issue. The bill is intended to make it clear that the normal activities of a councillor – campaigning, talking with constituents, expressing views on local matters and seeking to gain support for those views – should not lead to a legal challenge to a council decision.
Standards Board
The bill would bring about the abolition of the Standards Board regime. A new duty on local authorities to promote and maintain high standards of conduct will be introduced.
Pay accountability
Provisions are included that will require authorities to approve and publish annually a senior pay policy statement which they will be required to follow when setting senior pay.
Scrapping bin taxes
So-called ‘bin tax’ schemes would have allowed local councils to charge residents for household rubbish collections or fine families for having a full bin. The bill will repeal sections 71 to 75 of, and Schedule 5 to, the Climate Change Act 2008 thus stopping these schemes taking place.
Abolition of Regional Strategies
The bill will remove primary legislation which sets the basis for Regional Strategies.
Community Infrastructure levy
The Community Infrastructure Levy allows local authorities to set charges which developers must pay when bringing forward new development in order to contribute to new infrastructure.
Local Plan reform
The Bill will remove the ability of the Planning Inspectorate to re-write local plans and remove procedures on timetabling and monitoring. Planning inspectors will continue to assess local plans at a public examination, and authorities will only be able to adopt plans judged ‘sound’ by the inspector, but inspectors will only be able to suggest changes at the request of the local authority.
Neighbourhood planning
Neighbourhood plans will enable communities to permit development without the need for planning applications.
Community Right to Build
This measure will give local communities the power to take forward development in their area without the need to apply for planning permission, subject to meeting certain safeguards and securing 50% support of the community through a referendum. It will be for communities to identify suitable land, sources of finance and secure support for their proposals.
Duty to co-operate
The bill introduces a duty to co-operate on local authorities and public bodies.
Pre-application consultation
The bill introduces a new requirement for prospective developers to consult local communities before submitting planning applications for very large developments.
Proposals in the bill will tackle abuses like making deliberately misleading planning applications and running retrospective planning applications and enforcement appeals simultaneously.
Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects
This measure will replace the Infrastructure Planning Commission with a system that provides a fast-track process for major infrastructure projects.
Social Housing Allocations reform
This measure will take transferring tenants who are not in housing need out of the allocation rules.
Reform of homelessness legislation
The bill will give local authorities the right to bring their homelessness duty to an end with an offer of suitable accommodation in the private rented sector without requiring the household’s agreement.
Social housing tenure reform
The provisions in the bill will enable local authority landlords to grant tenancies for a fixed length (the minimum length being two years).
Reform of council housing finance
Under the new system, councils will keep their rental income and use it locally to maintain their homes.
National Homeswap Scheme
This measure would require landlords to participate in web-based mutual exchange services that enable tenants to see a wide range of properties across providers in England.
Reform of social housing regulation
This measure will: make reforms to the regulatory system for social housing; abolish the Tenant Services Authority and transfer its remaining functions to the Homes and Communities Agency; and make changes to the Ombudsman regime applicable to social housing complaints.
Facilitating moves out of the social rented sector
The bill will ensure that housing association tenants who are also members of their landlord organisation are allowed to take up incentive schemes which help moves out of the social rented sector into owner occupation. Current legislation does not allow this because it precludes the making of any gifts to tenant members or former members.
Home Information Packs
This measure will repeal Part 5 of the Housing Act 2004 thereby abolishing Home Information Packs.